Wildcat Gun Machine
Developer: Chunkybox Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre(s): Action, shooter
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC – Windows)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 04/05/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Upon starting Wildcat Gun Machine, you’re thrown straight into the deep end without any real context on why you’re here or what your main goal is. While some people may enjoy not sitting through a five-minute-long cut-scene to explain the story or the character’s motivations, I found it a little strange and a bit rushed. I normally like to get to know the character a little more and the reasons for why we’re here and doing the things we’re doing. Sadly it’s never explained, and why our main character is always surrounded by ghost cats is another detail that is never touched upon. The game doesn’t want to waste your time with any sort of introduction or fluff, it wants you to familiarise yourself with the combat and the controls through actually playing it.
When you begin you’re thrown into a serious of colour-coded halls that act like a maze that you’ll need to scout about looking for enemies to kill, to loot and to discover. It’s not very long before you encounter your first enemy wave, which is a bunch of flying skulls that are pretty easy to take down. However, as you progress further into new areas your shooting skills will be tested against more unique demon-like creatures. These can get progressively harder as you venture deeper into their stronghold.
While you may be outnumbered, you’ll never be outgunned as there is a total of forty weapons to discover across your journey. Each of these having their own unique attacks that can be upgraded to make them even more deadly. As you move through the maze you’ll come across coloured doors that won’t let you pass until you have the correct colour-coded key. These keys will allow you to unlock these doors which can normally contain new weapons, armour or new ways to progress further. You also discover a lot of dead bodies around the maze. Once you’ve interacted with them they may grant you a few bones which is Wildcat Gun Machine‘s currency, allowing you purchase new perks and upgrades in the hub area.
The controls are pretty simple from the get-go. For example, you can move with the right analogue stick and aim with left stick which is a pretty typical twin-stick shooter set-up. You shoot with the ZR trigger, once you’ve unlocked the dash ability you can activate it with a tap of L bumper, and you throw grenades with ZL. These abilities are unlocked after you kill the first boss in the game. Finally you can swap to two different armaments such as a light blaster or a heavy duty weapon like the shotgun or laser cannon, though secondary weapons have a limited pool ammo, but you can find more dotted around the base. These and more can be upgraded and swapped in and out in the hub area.
Killing Me Softly
Apart from picking up health pick-ups and armour, you can also activate your super ability once you’ve killed enough enemies. It makes you briefly invincible and allows you to blast your enemies with a high powered flurry of rockets for a short time – almost too short. The issue I have with this is it feels like it takes so long to charge the meter. Once you’ve used it up you’ll be back to your standard weapons again.
I would normally save my special ability for any huge boss encounters but I never felt like it did enough damage to warrant saving it. Later on you will acquire more hefty special machines that not only look cool, but are great weapons to lay waste to your enemy – but you don’t get these until much later on. It feels like the special equipment needs to last a little longer and provide a bit more oomph in terms of power. Everyone likes feeling like a badass, but the short-lived nature makes it very underwhelming to use.
One thing I think Wildcat Gun Machine does well is its creative monster designs. Each of the grotesque-looking abominations looks like it’s been ripped from the depths of hell. They have a DOOM vibe about them. The boss encounters felt more like a bullet hell shooter than your typical twin-stick shooter affair, as the screen was filled with bullets and projectiles coming from all directions. And while these instances where a sight to behold, they where incredibly difficult to win when starting out.
There’s just so much stuff flying around on screen at once that occasionally you’re going to get hit and it’s mostly down to the viewing angle as it’s an isometric view. There are parts of the scenery that can get in your way or, for example, when you meet the second boss. He likes to float around the arena and occasionally gets stuck near the wall, making it very difficult to dodge his cone of bullets that constantly circle around him with only a small window of opportunity to pass through safely. This caused some frustration for me. It wasn’t unbeatable but I felt like the combat got very repetitive quickly, there just wasn’t enough variety to keep things interesting.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
While I have been a little critical of Wildcat Gun Machine there’s still fun to be had here with over forty weapons to unlock and dozens of perks to upgrade. It was just my initial impressions of the starting area that made me feel as though game wasn’t quite as exciting as I hoped it would be. It felt a little underwhelming. However, after you’ve defeated the first few bosses you’ll unlock the next chapter with all new enemies that will test your mettle. But to give the developers their due, the game looks nice, the shooting is quite fluid and with the extra chapters there’s a lot to get through here.
Though my biggest issue is the difficultly, which I felt really picked up even on the second boss. It got me a little flustered. See, you can upgrade your ghost cats (apparently that’s a thing in Wildcat Gun Machine) in the perks menu in the hub and that gives you another chance of life if you die. However, it doesn’t respawn you in same location but back at the hub area. All the enemies are back, the boss is at full health again and you lose your special ability, which is big peeve of mine.
While Wildcat Gun Machine isn’t going to win any awards in originality, the core mechanics are decent and the shooting is enjoyable for a time but can get repetitive. The difficultly will definitely test some players’ patience, especially in the first chapter of the game. But stick with it, you’ll find a challenging shooter that will reward you before kicking you to the curb for tenth time.
Rapid Reviews Rating
2.5 out of 5
You can buy Wildcat Gun Machine in the Nintendo eShop.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.